I will forever view the Andy Reid era of the Kansas City Chiefs through the lens of 2012. This is the story of why.
The foundations of the Kansas City Chiefs can be rightly traced back to 1960 when Lamar Hunt formed the Dallas Texans. The foundation of any organization can always be traced back to its origins, its roots. However, having studied and worked in many different types of organizations I can tell you that every once in a while events conspire to shake the foundation of an organization and redirect its fortunes.
Why are foundations important? The easy answer is that everything else rests on the foundation. What is culture? I consider it to be a way of being. It’s how we do business both with one another and with others. It’s formed by the principles upon which we conduct our affairs. In the NFL it’s built on trust; primarily trust between the GM, the head coach and the quarterback per Mike Lombardi. It’s established and maintained by ownership. For better or worse it trickles down to the rest of the team, coaching staff and organization.
An Example of Building Culture
When I was in KC a few years ago my then future ex-wife was invited to be part of a private, parent-partnered, Christian school start-up, The Daniel Academy. Since we were a thing I too was invited along for the ride, and got quite involved as well.
The “experts” say the planning phase for a new school takes 18 months. Well, in the span of five months we formed a board, found and rented a building, renovated and painted, furnished it, developed an administrative structure, outlined policy, laid out curriculum for grades K-12, recruited, interviewed and hired about 30 teachers, and opened on Day 1 completely full. We didn’t know we weren’t supposed to be able to do that. (Lessons in setting expectations, kiddos. But that’s an important story for another day.) We just prayed, held our vision in faith, busted our chops, and made it happen. I call that first year “catching cannonballs.” But we survived.
How do you set culture? That’s a full-on study. For us, it was about praying and asking and again holding fast to the vision. Here’s what happened. God gave us Sheldon.* Sheldon was high school age, and he was “special.” An example is that he would buzz up and down the hallways, arms outstretched like an airplane. His carefree behavior made him the perfect target for criticism and bullying. It could have easily gone the other way but didn’t. You see Michael,* who was quickly emerging as an influencer, chose differently. Instead of bullying and harassment, Michael made a decision all on his own to love and embrace Sheldon. It was amazing! I watched the entire student body turn in an instant in complete synchronicity like a school of fish (no pun intended) and love Sheldon. The young man became the object of all their affections. And love, genuine care and affection, was sown into our foundations.
Fast forward a couple of years. *Amanda, a high school age girl interviewed and was admitted to our little school. She had already attended 2-3 other “Christian schools” and pretty much had it all figured out and “knew” what to expect. Well, one day early in the year her mom came to pick her up as she always did. When she got in the car her mom asked how her day went. Amanda was completely silent as she stared down. After a few seconds she burst into tears saying “I’ve never been to a school like this.”
As any Chiefs fan at the time knows, 2012 was a year of tragedy and great loss. The team had completely bottomed out, black banners flew, lives were lost, and careers harshly redirected. Clark Hunt humbly owned the situation. And out of the smoke and rubble emerged Andy Reid, John Dorsey and Alex Smith. The scars of that time, the grief, the loss, forever marked the Kansas City Chiefs. No one would ever wish for these circumstances. But having survived an organizational earthquake, the Chiefs gained tenacity, humility and determination.
From my perspective, those qualities still mark this team. The owner, head coach and current GM all passed through the fires of 2012.
Do you believe in destiny?
This last year the Chiefs have faced immense adversity. They were an offsides penalty, a defensive stop, and/or a coin toss away from the Super Bowl, a Super Bowl they would’ve in all likelihood won. But maybe they weren’t ready. Maybe the formation of character wasn’t complete.
When you’re on your path, properly aligned, things to push you forward just happen. As the saying goes, the universe conspires on your behalf. Call them serendipities, God-winks or whatever. The Chiefs started this season with an uphill climb. A new defense was being installed. It takes time and trust to get it down. They had to figure out how to win with one arm tied behind their backs so to speak. On top of that they faced a mountain of injuries. Still, good things happened, not because of but in spite of. Had the Ravens not swooped in with a huge contract we’d have Earl Thomas instead of Tyrann Mathieu. Had the Chiefs not “blown” the end of the Titans game we wouldn’t have Terrell Suggs. Without all those injuries the Chiefs rookies and backups wouldn’t have gotten so much experience which has been essential to the team’s success. Without the injuries this team might not have been forced to win in so many different ways. The Ravens learned that in their playoff game this year. They’d never been forced to come from behind to win. And when faced with that situation they couldn’t respond and lost.
I believe this is the Chiefs year, not because of my fandom or being a homer. For me it goes much deeper. For me it goes back to 2012.
It’s time. We ready!
*Names were changed